What would be surprising to readers would be a new thriller about the highest levels of government that did not include dishonesty, self-dealing, and double-crossing. So this novel doesn't surprise. Mr. Meltzer tries hard to put some freshness into his book by dreaming up a deluded crazy assassin who was trained as a sniper because of his unusual skills, and adding interesting historical references in a couple of places. But the book doesn't stand out among the genre, mostly because several of the plot premises don't make a lot of sense.
Within a few pages, you find out that former wet-behind-the-ears presidential aide, Wes Holloway, had his face disfigured in an assassination attempt on the president, Leland Manning, during a re-election campaign stop at a NASCAR race event, where the president lost his best friend, Ron Boyle, in the shooting. Eight years later, Wes is still working for the former president and stumbles onto Boyle (whose face has been transformed by plastic surgery) backstage during a speaking event by Manning in Malaysia. Boyle bolts, and Wes is left with a lot of uncomfortable questions about what's going on. Surprisingly, Wes doesn't say a word to Manning, but begins to check into what's going on.
Wes's quiet investigation parallels a desperate search by two shadowy figures for Boyle, who follow Wes in hopes of locating Boyle that way. A third figure introduces us to the assassin, Nicholas (Nico) Hadrian, who has been fed a conspiracy theory about manipulation by the Masons to help satan. Before long, these four figures are on a collision course with Wes and the allies he brings to his investigation who include his former mentor, also former presidential aide; his roommate, a lawyer who specializes in speeding and parking tickets; and a Palm Beach gossip columnist.
Ultimately, the story is about who you can trust . . . and Wes learns that you cannot be too careful, as one person after another turns out to be a double-dealer of one sort or another.
The final action sequence is pretty entertaining, so you'll feel rewarded if you plow through to the end.
The book's key problem is that many of the plot aspects that could have provided good puzzles are revealed in the first 100 pages or so. That means you spend a lot of time following Wes as he unravels factors that you already understand. That slows the book down quite a bit over the pace it could have had.
If you are like me, you'll find the purpose behind the attack and its consequences to be a little hard to swallow.